The cover shot to Swiss-born saxophonist Domenic Landolf’s Pirouet debut offers a clever visual analogue to his music with a stark sepia tone view of Coney Island’s Hell Hole attraction, now defunct some 15 years. Landolf’s overarching concept on the date is an intriguing variant on chamber jazz past and present. Bassist Patrice Moret and drummer Dejan Terzic come at the thirteen pieces from comparable trajectories of introspection and restraint without slipping into the maudlin or moribund. There’s a mood of mystery about many of them, one that parallels the present state of the peninsula’s decaying amusements while also echoing the history of better times gone by.
Horn vamps and bass ostinatos undergird ambling intervals on several of the pieces and an economy of expression ensures that the program progresses in lubricious succession. Terzic uses glockenspiel and an assortment of chimes alongside his kit to create an array of quiet accents and textures. Moret’s strings vibrate and thrum sans invasive amplification and bring a dry brittleness to the ensemble passages that tighten the tension while keeping the action comparatively low-key. Both players take to Landolf’s supple and deceptively layered compositions like naturals, offering both support and subtle challenges to the leader and sticking their necks out well beyond usual sideman deference and deportment.
Landolf uses the fluid backdrops and foregrounds to best advantage, cycling between tenor, bass clarinet and alto flute and conveying a calmly singular sound through each. It’s the first horn that holds the most interest much of the time. His by turns grainy and feathery tone recalls Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre. Delicate melodic whorls and spirals are regular patterns in his phrasing, even in comparatively up-tempo numbers like the curiously titled “The Beatles Go East”. That piece also serves as a workout for his colleagues, Terzic in particular, as another vamp gets the business end of the trio’s collective creativity. This session may be as gradual to gel with listener pleasure receptors as it was with mine, but once it does the bonds become tenaciously strong.